Mumbet on a Postage Stamp

Help put Mumbet on a Postage Stamp!

The Trustees of Reservations, which owns and operates the Col. John Ashley House as a historic house museum, is nominating Mumbet as a subject for a U.S. Postal Service stamp. This is a long process, and we need all the help we can get.  Please either write the U.S. Postal Service directly (see below) or contact Will Garrison. Thanks!

March 27, 2002
Will Garrison, Historic Resources Manager
The Trustees of Reservations
The Mission House
PO Box 792
Stockbridge MA 01362


Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee
c/o Stamp Development, U.S. Postal Service
475 LíEnfant Plaza, SW
Room 4474E
Washington DC 20260-2437

Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee:

I am writing to submit Elizabeth Freeman as a subject for a postage stamp. Elizabeth Freeman, also known as ‘Mumbet,’ was born a slave in the Hudson River valley in the early 18th century, then owned for many years by the Ashley family in Western Massachusetts. The Ashley Family owned much of Sheffield, and Colonel John Ashley held many government posts.

Freeman learned of the Massachusetts constitution, passed in 1780, which said in part “All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights.” Represented by attorneys Theodore Sedgwick and Tapping Reeve, Freeman sued in the Berkshire County Court of Common Pleas. The suit was for recovery of property, on the grounds that she was not the legitimate property of the Ashleys. According to one contemporary observer, Sedgwick and Reeve ‘argued that no antecedent law had established slavery, and that the laws that seemed to suppose it were the offspring of error in the legislators and that such laws even if they had existed, were annulled by the new constitution.[ The jury decided that Freeman was not, and had never been, the legal servant of Ashley. Ashley appealed, but dropped the case in the fall.]

Elizabeth Freeman continued to be a respected member of the community, working for the Sedgwick family for many years. She had another brush with history during Shayís Rebellion, when she protected the Sedgwick home from the rebels. Freeman died in 1829 and is buried in the Sedgwick family plot in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Find enclosed a recent biography written about Elizabeth Freeman. There is one known image of Freeman, held by the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. They are willing to have this image used on a stamp.

Thank you for your consideration.


Will Garrison, Historic Resources Manager

[Letter by permission of Will Garrison and submitted to which has graciously published]